Gestational diabetes is a condition in which your blood sugar levels become high during pregnancy. It affects up to 10% of women who are pregnant in the U.S. each year. I have nursed many women who discovered that they had diabetes for the fist time , in their pregnancy. There was always one common denominator in the cases I saw.
It was that they all had a relative who had the condition. Most were apparently attending regular antenatal clinic and boom! the blood sugar levels were on fasting was higher that normal. I will help you to better understand how this condition affects breastfeeding ((Pd link) and give you some tips to help you manage it better.
Gestational Diabetes: What Causes It?
When you eat, your pancreas releases insulin, a hormone that helps move a sugar called glucose from your blood to your cells, which use it for energy.
During pregnancy, your placenta makes hormones that cause glucose to build up in your blood. Usually, your pancreas can send out enough insulin to handle it. But if your body can’t make enough insulin or stops using insulin as it should, your blood sugar levels rise, and you get gestational diabetes.
What Are the Types Of Diabetes?
Gestational diabetes usually goes away after you give birth. But it can affect your baby’s health, and it raises your risk of getting type 2 diabetes later in life. You can take steps so you and your baby stay healthy. I encourage you to do all you can to manage your condition because it can be a life threatening condition for both you and your little star.
Can I Breastfeed If I Have Gestational Diabetes?
I know you want to know if you can breastfeed if you have gestational diabetes. Guess what ? I have great news! Yes you can ! The majority of health experts say that breastfeeding is the best way to feed your baby, and that if you’re able to do it, you should give it a try. In an ideal world, you’d breastfeed exclusively for the first 6 months of your baby’s life. If you have diabetes, you may wonder if that’s true for you. No worries: If you want to breastfeed, having diabetes shouldn’t prevent you from doing so, and both you and your baby will reap some pretty impressive benefits.
his can happen for anyone, but diabetes can add some challenges. For instance, it could make your milk come in more slowly.
Talk to your doctor or a lactation consultant if you need help or are unsure whether you should supplement with formula.
Breastfeeding Benefits for You and Your Baby
Breastfeeding has so many benefits mama. For your little star, it’s well-known that babies who are breastfed (regardless of whether Mom has diabetes) tend to have fewer health problems, including respiratory and ear infections, digestive trouble, and asthma. They might also be less likely to develop type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
Just in case we have some of you out there who may not be feeling too well. Here are some symptoms you might experience:
Gestational Diabetes Symptoms
Women with gestational diabetes usually don’t have symptoms or may chalk them up to pregnancy. Most find out that they have it during a routine screening.
You may notice that:
- You’re thirstier than usual
- You’re hungrier and eat more than usual
- You pass your urine more than usual( pd link)
Gestational Diabetes Risk Factors
You’re more likely to get gestational diabetes if you:
- Were overweight before you got pregnant
- Are African-American, Asian, Hispanic, Alaska Native, Pacific Islander, or Native American
- Have blood sugar levels that are higher than they should be but not high enough to be diabetes (this is called prediabetes)
- Have a family member with diabetes
- Have had gestational diabetes before
- Have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or another health condition linked to problems with insulin
- Have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, or other medical complications
- Have given birth to a large baby (weighing more than 9 pounds)
- Have had a miscarriage
- Have given birth to a baby who was stillborn or had certain birth defects
- Are older than 25
Gestational Diabetes Tests and Diagnosis
Gestational diabetes usually happens in the second half of pregnancy. Your doctor will check for it between weeks 24 and 28, or sooner if you’re at high risk.
Your doctor will give you a glucose tolerance test: You’ll drink 50 grams of glucose in a sweet drink, which will raise your blood sugar. An hour later, you’ll take a blood glucose test to see how your body handled all that sugar. If the results show that your blood sugar is higher than a certain level, you’ll need a 3-hour oral glucose tolerance test, meaning you’ll get a blood glucose test 3 hours after you drink a 100-gram glucose drink. Your doctor can also test you by having you fast for 12 hours, then giving you a 75-gram glucose drink and a 2-hour blood glucose test.
If you’re at high risk but your test results are normal, your doctor might test you again later in your pregnancy to make sure you still don’t have it.
Are Your Meds Safe for Your Baby?
In most cases, a medication that was fine for you to use when you were pregnant should be fine to continue while nursing. But it’s always wise to check with your doctor.
Metformin is usually a good choice, and insulin should be OK. If you have type 1, you should certainly continue to take insulin, though you might find that you need less while breastfeeding than you did before you got pregnant.
Managing Gestational Diabetes: Making it Safe for You and Baby
If you have gestational diabetes, you’ll need treatment as soon as possible to keep yourself and your baby healthy during your pregnancy and delivery. Your doctor will ask you to:
- Check your blood sugar levels four or more times a day. You will be taught how to do it in hospital.
- Check your urine for ketones, chemicals that mean that your diabetes isn’t under control
- Eat a healthy diet
- Make exercise a habit
- Be aware of the complications which are intra-uterine death, large babies, birth injuries, hemorrhage, a condition called preeclampsia, coma, death of mother or baby. Control of the condition is key in good management.
Your doctor will keep track of your weight and your baby’s development. They might give you insulin or another medicine to keep your blood sugar under control.
Exercise throughout your pregnancy.
You can exercise when you have gestational diabetes with your doctor’s permission. Being active is a good way to help manage your blood sugar. Staying fit during pregnancy is also good for your posture and can curb some common problems, like backaches and fatigue.
- Get active as soon as possible. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week. Running, walking, swimming, and biking are good options.
- Was there a workout that you were doing before you found out you were pregnant? Do you have an activity that you love? Check with your doctor to see if you can keep it up, if you should make some changes, or if it’s better to try something else.
- Exercise can lower your blood sugar. So when you work out, always have a form of quick sugar with you, such as glucose tablets or hard candy.
Get the right prenatal care: Not only can your doctor screen you for this condition; they can offer advice on food, activity, and weight loss. They can also point you to other health professionals, like nutritionists, that can help.(paid link).
If you have morning sickness, eat small healthy snacks. Nibble on crackers, cereal, or pretzels before you get out of bed. As you go through your day, have small meals often and avoid fatty, fried, and greasy foods.
If you are hospitalized, or if you are managed at home, you will have an interview with a dietitian to understand what your food portions should be. This is very important.
If you take insulin, make sure you’ve got a plan to deal with low blood sugar. Throwing up can make your glucose level drop. Talk to your doctor if you’re not sure what to do. Remember to never eat and not take your medication and vice versa, do not take your insulin and do not eat. This is a set up for blood sugar issues.
Ask your doctor any questions you need answers to.
Know the signs and symptoms of hypo and hyperglycemic episodes .e.g. dizziness, slurred speech, forgetfulness, low or high blood sugar levels.
Gestational Diabetes Prevention
You can lower your risk before you get pregnant by:
With type 1, you may find that the hormonal changes from giving birth and breastfeeding change the amount of insulin you need and throw your general testing and treating routine out of whack. You may want to work with a lactation consultant, diabetes educator, or nutritionist until you get the hang of things.
Low Blood Sugar: Keep snacks handy
Making milk takes a lot of energy, and breast milk is loaded with lactose, a type of sugar. When you nurse your baby and that sugar leaves your body, your blood sugar levels may dip by up to 25% and your blood sugar could drop too low (hypoglycemia).
Checking your blood sugar more often and planning ahead can help a lot. And It’s usually a good idea to have a snack before nursing and to keep something like fruit juice nearby while you breastfeed, in case you start to get hypoglycemic. Also, sip lots of water to stay hydrated.
You Might need some support
No matter what type of diabetes you have, you’ll probably need support from family and friends, too. Post partum can be tough
It can be hard for anyone with a newborn to find time to prepare healthy meals, but if you have diabetes, it’s extra important to eat well and regularly.
We have come to the end of a very intense post with breastfeeding and gestational diabetes. I hope you enjoyed it. If you are a newly discovered diabetic, I want you to ask God to heal you and help you and your baby to be safe. I want you to continue to do well. Remember you can speak with your doctor, nurse, lactation specialist, or even the dietitian about any issues . I wish you a very successful breastfeeding journey. Thank you for stopping and do come again. Do you have any breastfeeding goals? You can list it below.
I have an exciting video below on gestational diabetes that I think you will enjoy.
Here goes our video on gestational diabetes: